I'll be honest, I reference World of Warcraft in pretty much every MMORPG I write about. The reason for this is that it set a pretty high benchmark. When originally released it was a game with potential. Multiple content updates as well as refinements to the gameplay have continued to raise the standard. The Burning Crusade is the long awaited expansion pack Adding two new races and giving the two warring factions access to each others once unique classes, plus a whole new continent TBC offers something for everyone.
Each faction gains a race which seems to contradict their existing choice. The Alliance gain the brutish looking Dranei, whereas the Horde get the sexy Blood Elves. Many believe that adding a sexy Horde character would address the imbalance on some servers where the Alliance massively outnumbers the Horde. What's more interesting, and more significant in terms of gameplay, is that the new races each have access to the classes that were once unique to a faction. The Dranei can play as Shamans and the Blood Elves have access to Paladins. As time goes by I'm sure that this will change the way high level PvP plays out.
My new character is a Dranei Shaman. I played through the entire new beginner section just off the continent of Kalimdor. The area offers content up to level 20 at which point you get to join the quest lines that existed before the expansion. If you really wanted to you could ignore the vast majority of the new area, but you would really be missing out. The new area is the first area that I have ever completed 100%.
The new area for high level characters is actually a complete continent called Outland. The area has a massive amount of new content for battle hardened players. Whilst the difficulty is high the frustration level is reduced. As you level past 60 and your stats improve you can revisit level 60 quests and they will be a little easier. With plenty of areas to grind and try out your new talents (these have had a significant rejig) The Outland continent is a welcome addition to the series.
Other than a new content and races, the most significant change is the new profession. Jewelcrafting allows characters to create items of jewellery using metals and precious stones. Yes, I agree that this doesn't sound all that life shattering and at lower levels it doesn't make a major difference. At higher skill levels a jewelcrafter can create gems which can be added in to 'socketed' items. These are items which have a number of slots which gems can be added to. This allows you to customise a weapon to your character build by using various combinations of gems. Fortunately the games other professions are improved as the 300 skill cap is raised to 375. Having access to new raw materials and new recipes means there is plenty to do for players who had previously maxed their professions out.
World PvP continues on from the battles we previously saw before the expansion. Players can choose to contribute (or not) towards PvP goals in the new areas. If one side gets the advantage, all players from that faction in that area will gain a useful buff.
Flying mounts add something for level 70 characters to save up for. Whilst they can only be used in the games new areas they are a worthy addition. Being able to move quickly from one area to another reduces the frustration that travelling often causes.
The lack of significant gameplay changes is to Blizzards credit. That may seem like an odd comment coming from a reviewer but the truth is that the rolling updates that have occurred over previous months have changed the way the game plays and significantly improved the experience.
One of the mixed blessings is new equipment. Players ploughed many, many hours into gathering the perfect item set. The most accomplished players could stand in the games capitals and be surrounded by players in awe at their uber equipment. Well that stuff now looks like crap compared to the new equipment. In fact some of the standard drops from random creatures can compare with items that were once considered 'leet'. With these new items it feels like the slate has been wiped clean. It's possible for the less serious gamers to play catch up for a short while. Though obviously this will change as time passes and the more organised guilds slowly harvest the best equipment for their members.
The Burning Crusade is exactly what World of Warcraft needed. Plenty of top quality content that players will enjoy for a long time. Writing this review brings an odd feeling, I'm writing a review for one of the most played and popular games in the world yet I know that very few people will actually read it, because pretty much every single World of Warcraft player will purchase the expansion.